By Kris Carr
We’ve all felt the swelling and burning associated with a twisted ankle or scraped knee. Ouch! How about the hard-to-swallow pain that accompanies a sore throat? Moan. That’s inflammation at play, doing its job by defending us from invaders and injury. Immune system cells swoop in to either attack the culprit causing the commotion and/or fix the situation. It’s all good in the hood as long as this response is kept in check.
But there’s a silent (yet violent) kind of inflammation that can take place without you even knowing it. What you eat, drink, and think (stress!), environmental toxins, smokin’, boozin’, and even a couch-potato lifestyle can create a fiery cascade of inflammation in your body. When your body hits an inflammatory overload, your defense system gets so overwhelmed and confused that it literally doesn’t know the difference between the invader and you. As a result, your well-meaning immune system turns on itself, destroying healthy cells, tissue, and everything else in its wake. It’s like when Al Pacino played Tony Montana in Scarface. He mows down everything in sight, yelling, “Say hello to my little friend!” In a word: sh*t.
As part of your anti-inflammatory wellness plan, I encourage you to reduce or eliminate all icky foods that irritate your body. Like what? Well, most of the vittles commonly found in the acidic Standard American Diet (SAD)—meat and dairy, refined carbohydrates, wheat, processed foods made with high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and trans fats, and let’s not forget the chemicals, drugs, and anything you can’t sound out phonetically— even if it’s vegan. Processed is processed. Nothing compares to Mother Nature’s bountiful garden. Therefore, the more complete and intact your foods, the better they are for you.
By decreasing the amount of acidic inflammatory foods while increasing the amount of healthy and alkaline plant foods, you flood your body with vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, and so on. This allows your body to recover from the barrage of bull crap, oxidative stress (created by free radicals) and poisons that pillage your inner terrain. Once your body repairs, it can renew. Pinpointing and addressing the source is beyond revolutionary. That’s big healer medicine. You might as well get a business card that reads: Self-care Shaman. Did you have any idea that that sort of power was in you? I did. Here’s a deeper look at a few of inflammation’s enablers . . .
MILK AND DAIRY MUMBO JUMBO
Whoa Kris, don’t take my cheese and burgers away! Believe me, I get it. I was a meat and dairy lover myself. In fact, I grew up across the street from a small family-run dairy farm. But when I got sick and wise, I realized that some foods have the power to heal, while others have the power to harm.
Here’s the real deal, excess meat and dairy are the poster children for inflammation and health complications. It’s no wonder that as the consumption of animal products increases, so do the rates of chronic disease. What was once a better-quality product, eaten on occasion and in small portions, is now the cheap and supersize centerpiece of every meal. But contrary to popular belief, animal products aren’t like lip gloss, you don’t need them in order to survive. And you certainly shouldn’t eat much of the stuff if you want to thrive (especially if it comes from a factory farm). “But where will I get my protein, calcium, iron, etc.?” Have no fear. My pal Jen Reilly (a.k.a. the Bitchin’ Dietician) will answer all your questions in the FAQ at the end of this section. For now, stick with me as we touch on the bigger issues.
Whether or not a particular food is healthy for us doesn’t solely stem from its nutritional value. It’s also about how your dinner got to your plate. When evaluating the health consequences of eating mass-produced animal products we must also consider the way the critters were raised and treated. Compassion aside, this is about your well-being. How an animal is cared for from birth to slaughter truly, madly, deeply affects your body. On factory farms, where 99 percent of our meat and dairy products originate, thousands of animals are often kept in tight holding facilities and squalor, fed unnatural diets (including the excrement and body fluids of other animals) that create serious health complications, and are dosed with antibiotics and growth hormones. These concentrated animal feeding operations (or CAFOs) are a very dangerous way to live. Injury is quite common, as is disease. Unhealthy animals create unhealthy food. These practices threaten our food supply. Would you knowingly drink from a polluted well? We must remember that we humans are at the tippy top of the food chain. This means that we eat everything that the critter below us ate and below them ate and so on.
In addition to animal-welfare concerns, problems with food safety are abundant. Today the meat and dairy industries are run by a handful of corporations that have gobbled up small farms and dominate the market. It’s a big business that moves very fast and comes with big risks. Food-borne illnesses arise from the bacteria found in spilled fecal matter that make their way onto our plate. In the case of contaminated veggies, it’s not the produce that’s devious; it’s the poop on the produce that creates the problem. This can happen as a result of contaminated water systems. Ever hear of pink slime, a.k.a. “lean finely textured beef ”?
Yet another reason to steer clear of factoryfarm products. It’s an ingredient in ground beef that’s made from leftover meat trimmings sprayed with ammonia to kill pathogens like E. coli and salmonella. These trimmings used to be made into pet food, now it’s abundant at your grocery store, in fast food, and even school lunches. While proponents of pink slime firmly believe that the substance doesn’t contain safety issues, many consumers don’t know that the yucky stuff even exists! Why? Because pink slime isn’t labeled. What else is in our food?
What if you want to include meat and dairy in your diet? That’s your choice and I totally honor it (and you!). My advice: keep it to a minimum (2 or 3 times per week), as a condiment or side dish, and make the best selections. According to the American Dietetic Association, a portion of meat shouldn’t be larger than a deck of cards. Also, do your best to say “no way” to factory-farm products. Instead, look for the Certified Humane Seal (certifiedhumane.org), which is the gold standard in farming. As for seafood, Food and Water Watch (foodandwaterwatch.org) is a terrific resource to learn what seafood products are safest and therefore, healthiest. Unfortunately, farm-raised fish often experience similar confinement and health issues. As for wild fish, our oceans aren’t what they used to be and as a result, high levels of mercury (especially in deep-sea fish) and other heavy metals are abundant.
It will take some extra effort to understand and locate healthier, more humane animal products. But you and your family are worth it. And keep in mind that cutting back or eliminating animal products is super easy to do when you know how to be a Crazy Sexy cook! More love. Less suffering. Everyone wins.
THE BOGUS BAKERY
Dinner rolls, bagels, pasta. Yum. But did you know that there could be a hidden enemy lurking in your floury noshes? Gluten is the protein found in wheat and all its siblings (spelt, kamut, rye, barley). It’s the staple of the American diet. But those with gluten sensitivities or wheat allergies deal with lots of uncomfortable symptoms, stuff like bloating, gas, cramps, the scoots (a.k.a. diarrhea), fatigue, achy joints, depression, skin rashes, etc. Folks who are really sensitive experience those symptoms multiplied by a gazillion. They have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes systemic inflammation, severe damage to the small intestine, and nutrition deficiencies that result in conditions like anemia, malnourishment, osteopenia, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
While not everyone has gluten sensitivities or full blown celiac, these issues are more prevalent than you might think. Agricultural changes in how we grow our wheat are some of the likely culprits. If you’ve been feeling like crud for a while and this list of unwanted health issues sound all too familiar, experiment with a gluten-free diet. Go without gluten for a few weeks and see how you feel. No one knows your magnificent body better than you. Keeping a food journal will help you track your progress. There are blood tests you can take, but unfortunately, they’re not always accurate. Therefore, the only way to really know is to abstain. I’ve received oodles of emails from folks who’ve told me that since following Crazy Sexy Diet and eliminating gluten, they feel utterly fantastic. Dumping gluten was the missing link. You’ll find many gluten-free recipes in Crazy Sexy Kitchen, and any recipe that isn’t gluten-free can easily be modified.
GIMME SOME SUGAR
Sugar, a.k.a. the legal drug, is another common inflammatory disco that can make us fat, sick, and unhappy (yup, it messes with your brain). You’ve read the articles and you know how you feel when you dope up on too much of the stuff. Isn’t it one of life’s cruel ironies that something so addictive is also the thing we’re hard-wired to crave? And so, unless you’re on a strict healing plan or cutting it for Lent or bikini season, you’ll probably include some sweet treats in your diet. Indulgence isn’t frowned upon or forbidden. We just want to embrace la dolce vita with common sense and moderation. With that in mind, we thought it was important to include dessert recipes in this book. Some are more wholesome than others, but all were designed with your health in mind. We typically use better sugar alternatives and in lower amounts. And when it comes to the standard American fructose-fest, these are leaps and bounds better for you. To monitor my sugar intake, I use the Glycemic Index. The GI is a helpful tool that shows how much a carbohydrate affects blood-sugar levels. This is represented by a numerical value, from 1 to 100. The bigger the number, the quicker and higher the carb raises the bloodsugar level. Because they are nearly pure carbs, the simple sugars, like white, brown, maple syrup, and honey, spike your blood sugar the most. The higher the spike, the more insulin is pumped out by your pancreas. This creates sugar rushes, crashes, and cravings. Over the long term, this insulin roller coaster leads directly to obesity, diabetes, even cancer. On the other hand, complex carbs, like most veggies, whole grains, and beans, are lower on the GI scale. One of the main reasons they score lower is because they also contain other nutrients and fiber. Fiber slows down and evens out the digestion of sugars—thus keeping you from ripping off your clothes and running naked through the mall. Any food that has a GI rank below 60 is a good choice, especially if you need to watch your blood sugar. The GI list is for whole foods only. So when you’re buying packaged and processed foods, you’ll have to read the labels and look up the individual ingredients on the list. I’m sure you can guess that the more processed, the naughtier the GI number. Just for kicks, start checking out the GI value of your favorite foods. You’ll find numerous charts online. Where do your meals, snacks, drinks, and treats fall on the scale? Are they below 60 most of the time? Add more low GI foods to your diet on a daily basis (which is easy with your new arsenal of CSK recipes) so that your occasional higher GI choices truly are a special treat!
–Kris Carr, author of Crazy Sexy Kitchen (Hay House 2012). To learn more about Kris Carr and inspirational authors such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Cheryl Richardson, Doreen Virtue and more, we invite you to join us at Hay House I Can Do It! For more information please visit www.hayhouse.com or call 800-654-5126.